Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why bother about connected load? Isn't actual usage more important?

One of the biggest hurdles related to getting a new electricity boiled down to the connected load. The only purpose it serves at present is the security deposit collected by the department.

If the planners at electricity department actually use this data for planning, it would be as useful as applying Newtonian mechanics to individual molecules instead of statistical mechanics to a volume of gas!

Currently, it would be easy to compute the security deposit based on actual consumption, e.g. proportional to the maximum consumption during a billing period over a year. A billing application could automatically raise a request for a higher deposit as an when the consumption or the price of electricity increases.

Sending forms to the consumers which confuse them is hardly useful.

Stamp paper, getting a new electricity connection and the bureaucratic processes

As I wonder about the time it took to get an additional meter installed and who should be held responsible for the delays, I wonder whatever happened to the administrative reforms planned by Manmohan Singh. Here are a couple of references I found:

Times of India April 2005:
In keeping with the changed dynamics of governance, as compared to what they were four decades ago, the new body would grapple with new issues like citizen-centric administration, promoting e-governance and crisis management.
Frontline August 2004:
This is not an impossible task; Dr. Manmohan Singh brought about radical reforms to the way the government functioned when he was Finance Minister and did away with licensing and the plethora of approvals that tied up all development initiatives into knots. He did it because he had the unqualified backing of the Prime Minister at the time, without which he would not have been able to push the reforms through. Now that he is the Prime Minister, it is up to him to take the initiative and go ahead with radical reform of the civil services and the way in which they function as the present age requires.
While it is very tempting to blame the officials with whom I dealt, it is obvious that they were just following the rules. The officials with whom I dealt did not create the rules. They probably had no say in even suggesting that perhaps the rules could be modified.

Unfortunately, the people who created such processes are hidden and not visible to us. Fortunately, the Internet gives me a chance to rant against  them:(

A shop keeper had suggested that he will send a contractor and I won't have to visit the Electricity Department even once. But I am retired and the process on the official site seemed straight forward. So, I decided to do it on my own rather than worry about whether an unknown contractor was  taking me for a ride. A few of the steps whose purpose I failed to understand:

  • What's the advantage of a blank cancelled stamp paper? The staff of electricity dept also could not understand it and required another stamp paper with an application for a new connection on it.
  • Why require a certificate from an authorized contractor regarding the load when an engineer from the department comes home to verify it? 
  • Why do two engineers, once before the application is accepted and once before the connection is given, have to visit home to verify the load?
  • What's the point of getting each socket, light bulb, appliance specified in the load requirement? If so, should we not be taking permission of the department before buying any additional appliance?

All this implies that time and effort wasted by the engineers from the electricity department as well. No wonder the bureaucracy is always short staffed.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Confusing retirement policies of government - well meaning but ???

"EPFO caps pension contribution of firms" but why?

What puzzles me is that when I had retired, I had wondered about what my pension should be and I was informed that there was a cap of Rs. 6500. So, the fact that I took a job with much lower salary to teach had no impact on the pensionable amount.

Had it not been so, the pension amount would not have been so embarrassingly small! It makes me wonder if the information given me was correct but not enough to make me want to make the effort to verify it.

However, it does make me envy the generosity of government towards its own officials. This was illustrated recently by a couple. Both retired about 15 years ago. The husband was in a public sector employee and had a pension twice that of his wife's, who was in government service. Today his wife's pension is double his.

In the long term in our inflationary society, the lesson is that it is not the pension(unless one is a government employee or is married to one) but income from other investments which can ensure a comfortable life after retirement!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chandigarh: minimal house tax but a scary self-assessment form

The news that "Estimate running into Rs 2 crore, but MC only manages to collect Rs 9 lakh as house tax in a month" is hardly surprising. But I think the interpretation that "City residents seem to be going slow when it comes to paying property tax on residential property" is way off the mark.

I have had the forms with me for a while. I finally decided that I will sit down and fill them as I was driving to the nearest Sampark center anyway and driving is no longer pleasant.

Filling the form was not as terrifying as it looked. Over half the form I left blank as the questions did not seem relevant. I was dreading being told that I had not filled the form correctly. After all, I loved the Ziggy cartoon which had a caption(from 40 year old memory): You are in a heap of trouble, mister. This transfer is for route number 11 and this bus is route 11A.

I was in the queue for 5 minutes. During which one other person paid the house tax. Another person asked to see my form that how had I filled it. Still another person wanted to know how to fill the form and the counter person sent him to the supervisor.

It bewilders me that
  • why did the bureaucrats use the same form for residential property as they do for commercial property.
  • why ask for more information than is needed. We need only give the address and the size of the plot.
  • why call it self-assessment form and make it sound as if any incorrect information on even the redundant fields might cause one to be prosecuted.
Oh, well, I won't have anything to blog about if they did not complicate our lives unnecessarily :)

Or may be they want to prove that house tax is not a viable option?